During the election of Pope Francis and during the election of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the media and various secular and “Roman Catholic” groups flooded the print media and the airwaves. Invariably, their articles were demands, recommendations, or teary-eyed writings that spoke to what type of Pope should be elected and what his future stances should be.
The problem with the articles is that were the new Pope to have adopted the positions found in the various articles, the Pope would have had to reverse the position of the Roman Catholic Church on almost every major Roman Catholic doctrine. There was never any chance that such would happen. So, why were the articles written?
It is my opinion that the articles were actually the opportunity for various groups to get some media attention for their causes. I doubt that many, if any, of the groups actually expected that anything they said would influence the election. Nor were any of the groups truly surprised that the new Pope is, gasp, Catholic.
It was also a good opportunity for the media to report on “conflict situations” within the Roman Catholic Church. Though many rush to immediately condemn “media bias,” I doubt that this was actually what was going on. The media thrives on controversy because more people will watch them or buy their periodicals if they are reporting on some controversy or other.
Not everything is media bias. In fact more often than not it is media greed. Let’s face it, the media is not going to get controversial quotes out of established bishops. They get them from groups that opposed the established order. Thus, I do not need to posit media bias to explain the various news stories. I can explain the media behavior simply by their desire to write controversial stories that attract viewers or buyers.
In fact, that also explains the next set of stories after Pope Francis was elected. They found people in Argentina who claimed horrendous things about him. For instance:
And I want to start with the most serious accusation, which is that Pope Francis withdrew his support for two priests who were then kidnapped and tortured by the junta.
Having started with that shocking leading line, the report actually goes on to exonerate Pope Francis, or at least to place some serious doubts on the charges. The interviewee on NPR goes on to say:
I have not seen anything new surface in these weeks, it’s important to say. And it’s also really important to say, I tried to make this come out in my story, that this needs to be seen in context and with nuance. Because based on the evidence against Bergoglio, if he’s guilty, well, then much of a generation of Argentines are guilty. Because what he’s being accused of is not doing enough to confront a murderous dictatorship. There were other priests who did and were killed.
In fact, the episode finishes with a complete and total exoneration:
But there are other human rights activists who say this is really not fair. And among them is Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his Argentine human rights work. And he said Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He cannot be accused of that.
So, if this episode was actually a full exoneration of Pope Francis, why did it start out with such a charge? Well, to shock you so that you would listen to the rest of the episode, of course! That increases audience numbers. There was no media bias; they completely exonerated him. But, there most certainly was media greed.
When we accuse the media of something, let’s be wary of using the term “media bias” too often. The more disgusting charge of “media greed” is often the more accurate description.